Japan is a visually-oriented culture.
That makes sense. Why so?
Because of kanji of course.
I don’t follow.
Let me quote from Donald Richie’s book The Image Factory: Fads and Fashions in Japan (2003):
Some reasons have been suggested for Japan’s extreme affinity with this image-making process. One of these maintains that the nature of the written language predicates this disposition, that the kanji, the Chinese ideographs, are in themselves images and are so used by the Japanese, Vietnamese, and South Koreans (kanji are no longer used in North Korea) as well as the Chinese.
Each kanji character symbolizes a single idea. They are logographs in that one character sometime represents both the meaning and the sound of an entire word. In other languages (those constructed in the manner of an alphabet) a repertoire of images is neither required nor possible. Here a certain combination creates a formula — d—o—g = dog, a ‘translated’ image of the animal name. The same thing occurs in kanji, except that there is no middle step; 犬 at once becomes quan (chu’uan) in Chinese, ken or inu in Japanese. No ‘translation’ is necessary.
Or, as Frederick Schodt has put it, in discussing manga cartoons, ‘the Japanese are predisposed to more visual forms of communication owning to their writing system. Calligraphy… might be said to fuse drawing and writing. The individual ideograph… is a simple picture that represents a tangible object or an abstraction concept, emotion, or action.. in fact, a form of cartooning.
That ends that.
Let me get my head around this: the character for a dog 犬 looks like a dog, so it’s like looking at a cartoon for a dog?
Apparently, I can’t read Japanese myself.
What about 経常利益？ Does that look like “ordinary profit” to you?
I don’t know. It could, I guess. I don’t know much about the financial world.
When I write the word “dog” do you slowly spell it out d-o-g or do you instantly see the shapes contained in the word “dog” to mean dog and call up the concept in your head immediately?
Yes, but you are missing the point. When the Japanese have to actually write out these kanji, they become cartoonists in a sense. Or at least more sensitive to the visual image.
So in having to write out 慶應 rather than “Keio,” I gain visual sensitivity.
What if I write out the word in script けいおうinstead, does the lack of ideographs reduce my eye for visuals?
I am not sure what you are getting at. Remember: I am just italicized construct in an argument, rather than an actual person.
Forget that for a second. Japanese has both “cartoon” kanji and script—like kana. But China has only kanji. The Chinese are all kanji all the time. By this deductive logic, should China not be the world’s leading visual culture and the world’s most important market for comic books?
I think Chinese people like Japanese comics.
So do Americans, even though they were raised on an alphabet — which clearly lacks the amazingly visual properties of an ideograph system. What I am getting at is, how can we actually test the following deductive logic
A: Japanese uses ideographs
B: Ideographs are more visually-oriented than alphabets
C: The Japanese are visually-oriented
in an inductive manner. Is there a lot of linguistic experimentation backing up this idea?
I will Google that and get back to you.
If someone had asked you 50 years ago if the Japanese would fall in love with hamburgers, you would have probably said no, right?
Their culture is based on fish and vegetables.
Exactly. But hamburgers are now huge in Japan.
It’s a shame. But so what?
There was obviously some kind of historical development that happened in between Japanese “not eating beef and bread” to Japanese happily devouring them together with cheese on top.
And if that’s the case…
Is the brief pause in your discussion there supposed to indicate at a new paragraph?
Let me finish.
If that’s the case with hamburgers, how can we assume that the line between “kanji creating visual sensitivity” and manga/Japanese design culture was a straight path? Should we not look more closely at the specific development of the art form in a broader, reality-based method? Manga is a consumer item, a form of media. How did it become so popular? How was it distributed? How was it purchased? What were its alternatives and substitutes?
Yeah, but I’d rather just build theories around semi-deductive analysis of general Japanese traits I assume to be permanent and unbending.
God, it’s like I am putting the exact words I want to hear you say directly into your mouth.